Posted by: janecronin | December 23, 2018


“Esperar” is an interesting verb as it has three possible translations in English, depending on the context.  From a grammatical point of view there is nothing interesting to say about it as it is a standard –ar verb and does all the right things.  The three translations of “esperar” are – to wait, to expect and to hope.   I think you will agree that these three verbs have related meanings and in reality we would rarely be confused as to which one was meant.

The most basic everyday use of “esperar” means “to wait”.  You may have seen in banks and other offices polite signs which say “espere su turno” (wait your turn) even though the instruction is frequently ignored.  If you see a group of friends or a family, especially with children, out and about, you will often hear the command “Espera” (Wait!) which can also be expressed as “espérame (wait for me) or “espéranos” (wait for us).  Imperatives, or commands, are a bit complicated in grammar, but I might as well slip in here that the written “espere” is a formal command and if you are commanding more than one person to wait for you, you would say “esperad”.

“Espera” meaning “to expect” comes in all the same sorts of phrases as we say in English.  “Mi hija está esperando un bebé” (My daughter is expecting a baby) or “estamos esperando su llegada esta semana” (We are expecting his arrival this week).  In reality “to wait for” and “to expect” are very close in meaning and can sometimes be interchanged.  “Estamos esperando el autobús” could mean, “we are waiting for the bus” or “we are expecting the bus”.  It rather depends on how optimistic you’re feeling at the time.

When we come to the meaning of “esperar” as “to hope” something different happens to the grammar of the sentence.  If I start off a sentence with “espero que … (I hope that …) the following part of the sentence has to change into the subjunctive form.   The reasoning behind this is that if we are expressing a hope, we are talking about something that is hypothetical, that is, that may or may not ever exist or occur.  Here are some examples of what I mean: “Espero que estés bien” (I hope you are well – “estés” instead of “estás”).  Espero que vayamos a Madrid este año. (I hope we will go to Madrid this year – “vayamos” instead of “vamos”).  Obviously I can only cover the subject superficially in this article, but anyway, there it is.  The opposite of “esperar” is “desesperar” which means “to despair”.

A noun from “esperar” is “esperanza” (hope) as in “tengo mucha esperanza” (I have a lot of hope).  “Esperanza” is also a woman´s name, as in the dreaded Esperanza Aguirre a somewhat fierce Madrid PP politician from the Margaret Thatcher School of charm.  The name Esperanza is sometimes abbreviated to “Espe” although I don´t think that is one of Aguirre’s nicknames.   We also use the word “esperanza” in the expression “esperanza de vida” (life expectancy).

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